Rightly or wrongly, from an early age we tend to put ourselves into neat little boxes. One of those is the sporty box – we’re either sporty, or we’re not, with little in between. For those labelled ‘unsporty’, it is often a tag that sticks. We can’t all be into the same things and there’s nothing wrong with not being particularly into sports – but it can come at a cost, with inactivity and obesity in this country a growing problem, particularly among children. But more classically ‘unsporty’ people, especially women and girls, are getting involved in playing sport thanks to initiatives like Back to Netball and Back to Hockey – which not only tempt former players back but have great success with first-timers – as well as schemes like This Girl Can. We’ve had a look into a few different routes into sporting activity for those who may naturally describe themselves as unsporty.
Parenting – one of the greatest impediments to playing sport
One of the greatest impediments to taking part in sporting activity is becoming a parent. Parenting can be and often is all-consuming, gobbling up all of our time and much of our money. But increasingly, traditionally ‘unsporty’ Mums are looking to get into sport – both as a means of getting into shape and also simply as a healthy break from the demands of parenting.
As well as taking up most of our time, parenting brings an immense amount of mental clutter into our lives, stressing about this and that. Being able to break free from those mental strains is an invaluable boon to any parent, and sport – whether you feel naturally sporty or not – is one of the best ways to escape.
In 2018, Colin Lowe, the chairman and coach of Manchester-based grassroots football club Longford Park Juniors FC, invited mums who were cheering on their children from the sidelines to try out for their newly-established women’s team. Word and enthusiasm for the new team quickly spread and Longford Park Ladies now have 40 players, the majority of whom had barely or if ever played football at all.
How archery helped stave off anxiety and depression
Anna Jones, a 36 year old mum, told KUDOS about how an excursion into archery helped turn around her anxiety and depression. Anna has two children, aged 8 and 5, and found her only release from parenting and work was browsing Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms – which, in a variety of ways, only fuelled her anxiety.
It was no kind of release at all, wasting time scrolling through things I wasn’t really interested in. I had deleted all my social media apps when a friend suggested I went with her to her local archery club, but I told her I had no interest in sport and haven’t done since I used to ‘forget’ my PE kit and find other extravagant ways of getting out of PE, which I found intimidating and absolutely hated. But I was talked into going along and I found archery was brilliant. I loved it straight away – it was just me, my bow, my arrow and a target. It emptied my mind completely and was such a great way to switch off – and not only switch off but immerse myself in something else. I quickly became addicted to the thrill of bettering my own personal bests and literally hitting targets. It’s a great sport – and this is from someone who would ordinarily claim to hate sport. It’s got me out of the rut I was in and enthused by something I would never have considered. Much of my anxiety and depression has lifted and I can honestly attribute a great deal of that to getting off my backside and into archery.
Of course it doesn’t have to be archery. Swimming is widely accepted to provide the greatest workout in terms overall fitness and working every muscle in our body. It is best enjoyed alone and that solitude is a wonderful way to declutter the mind. There is no competitive element – but it is sport, it is activity, it absolutely counts and it unequivocally improves your fitness. For some, however, the idea of breaking the unsporty habit of a lifetime by popping along to the local leisure centre and near enough stripping off in front of a load of strangers might not prove all that tempting – which is where the This Girl Can Swim sessions come in.
Channeling energy and aggression in the right way
On the face of it, boxing might seem the most useless sport of all when it comes to tempting non-sporty types into sporting activity. Boxercise, however, is a means of exercise based on the training concepts used by boxers to keep fit. A typical boxercise class would involve shadow boxing, hitting pads and punchbags, press ups, sit ups and shuttle runs. At no point will you hit an opponent which makes boxercise a safe, fun but challenging workout and route into sport. You can even get yourself a punchbag at home, and release all of that pent-up aggression we can build up through the stress of work and parenting whenever you feel like it.
Step by step, unsporty people can find they possess a hitherto undiscovered love of a certain sport, be it archery, hockey, netball or whatever it may be. Ultimately, we believe the best way to channel a desire to play sport is to join your local sports club. But until you take those first tentative steps into playing sport you may never know. Give it a try, and you might never look back.
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